Welcome to Wales

It’s officially one month until I leave for Bangor University for the fall semester!

I will be enrolled as a student taking a variety of classes ranging from basic Welsh to organizational behavior.

Before I delve more into my thoughts regarding my next big life adventure let me tell a bit about myself:

I am a third year Marketing major at the University of Denver in beautiful Colorado, where I am involved in both the Delta Delta Delta sorority and the Alpha Kappa Psi professional business fraternity. Originally from Northern California, I have always enjoyed traveling with my family across the US and Europe. I like to find adventure anywhere I find myself!

Something that is hard to do as a visitor or tourist to any locale is really immerse yourself within that culture. World cultures have always fascinated me because it is astounding how on one single planet so much cultures, histories, and stories can co-exist together! A semester abroad provides enough time to begin to understand and thrive in that cultures instead of just glancing at it while a tourist. Although my culture is noticeably the baseball, minivans, and apple pie all American, one unique cultural experience I had was that my family happened to be in London when Prince William married Catherine Middleton. I stood on the Pall Mall in front of Buckingham Palace waving a small British flag, belting “God Save the Queen” while cheering for Queen Elizabeth and the rest of the British Royal Family. I felt a part of the culture and yelling for the couple to kiss when they appeared on the balcony seemed the right thing to do. It was an amazing experience to be a part of something that is so distinctly a part of the British national identity.

Studying abroad was always a definite must and it was not an easy decision narrowing down even which part of the world I wanted to study in for a semester! When faced with the daunting question from the study abroad office of where could we imagine living for four months. Since I’ve always been an anglophile and being a champion of all things Britannia, I decided on Bangor University in Wales because it gave a different UK experience than the programs in the ever popular London or Glasgow. So then I got the official email telling me the great news.

With this news, I have been busily mentally preparing myself for the trip of a lifetime where I really get to become a member of a different culture and lifestyle.

Going out of state for college was a particular challenge but its set the stage for being more comfortable with leaving home for greater distances. The biggest challenge I will face is being alone in a strange place; California to Colorado was an interesting enough adjustment, so US to Wales will be even more confusing! Support from family and friends will help make the transition smoother as they are as excited to hear all about the experiences I have abroad! Every person I’ve ever talked to about their time living abroad has told me how the experience has changed them and altered their world perspective, and from my college adventures that joining and involving myself in as many things as possible will be the best things to expand my horizons.

My next post will be from Wales!Bangor-University-007

Until next time,

Emily S., DUSA blogger

 

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Up in the Air

I’ve been anticipating the customary semester abroad that the majority of University of Denver students take during fall of their junior year since before I even started college. Still, the fact that I would be living in Seville, Spain starting this September didn’t quite feel real even as I was picking programs and attending pre-departure sessions at our International House. The fact that my next semester will start with a plane ride to a different continent instead of a sweaty day of moving boxes into a new dorm never fails to make me feel like I’m at the top of a roller coaster before it drops: a little scared, a lot excited, and incapable to focus on anything but the certain but unknowable change waiting for me in my immediate future. As summer starts to disappear and I imagine myself abroad, I’ve realized that if I made a Venn diagram of the ‘scary’ and the ‘exciting’ parts of my upcoming semester, I would only be able to fill in that weird, sort-of oval shape in the middle. The only experiences that will be rewarding will also require me to step outside of my comfort zone. No one thing can be exclusively categorized as a ‘fear’ or a ‘hope’ or a ‘goal’ for my time in Spain because, really, they’re all connected to one another. Life, inconveniently, can’t always be separated out into neat lists, but I’ll try to detail the basic parts of study abroad that make me nervous-excited-anticipatory, and will end up making it all worthwhile.

Traveling

Once I get to Seville, I plan on taking advantage of the several side-trips included in my program, which I have heard are essential. These trips I am not worried about – rather, I’m quite looking forward to them. They come with guides and itineraries. The ones I am worried about are the ones I’m planning to take on my own. I am not travel-literate. The first time I traversed an airport on my own was mere months ago, and, even following the signs, I got lost once or twice. When you struggle to navigate a building, trying to figure out how to get around a new town full of foreign signs is sure to be an experience with a difficult learning curve.

Learning more navigational skills, beyond “the mountains are west,” (which, beyond Denver, is useless) is a definite goal for my time abroad. Up to this point, the only reason I arrive anywhere on time is Siri. The Maps app is my guide, faithfully held up to the steering wheel as I squint towards exit signs and try not to turn at the wrong one (rerouting is stressful). In an age where those who are directionally challenged are saved from natural selection by their iPhones, how will I survive without one in a completely alien land? I guess I should learn how to read a real map? Buy a guidebook? Right now I know I’ll have to at least plan my trips in advance – spontaneous travel may lead to spontaneous breakdowns (or kidnapping. I’ve seen Taken). While learning how to get around by myself makes me anxious, I look forward to becoming more independent and confident in my navigational skills. When I don’t have a guide (or Siri) to hold my hand, I will have to rely on my own capabilities to travel. Once I successfully explore one place, the next is sure to be easier. Besides, if I do struggle with getting around new places, something good is sure to come of it. Aren’t the people who get lost in foreign countries in movies the ones that always find the best pastry shops, anyway? Not that I want to plan on getting lost, but with my track record, I’m bound to eat plenty of delicious crepes by the time December’s over.

Though I've heard that Seville is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain, I'll miss Colorado sights like this one at King Solomon Falls.

Though I’ve heard that Seville is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain, I’ll miss Colorado sights like this one at King Solomon Falls.

Learning the language

While I’m hoping I’ll actually be able to carry on a coherent, awkward-pause-less conversation in Spanish by the time I return from Seville, I’m also dreading the actual process of attaining that comfort with a second language. Inevitably, before I reach that covetable level of semi-fluency, I will put my foot in my mouth and accidentally tell someone I want to eat their child or something. Not that I haven’t already embarrassed myself locally in my quest for bilingualism. Back in middle school, I may have made the mistake of ordering “polla” instead of “pollo” from a native Spanish-speaking waitress at a local Mexican restaurant. Once I got home and SpanishDict’d what I had actually asked for, my memories of the wait staff chuckling at me from behind the bar became seared into my memory with the clarity of belated embarrassment.

Despite its abject cringe-worthiness, that moment didn’t keep me from pursuing Spanish. As of last quarter I was able to make my way through two novels in Spanish and correctly translate some of the conversations between Mexican cartel members on Breaking Bad without reading the subtitles. Both of these accomplishments, though different in size, provided equal amounts of thrill – I can now make convincing death threats and talk about Emilia Pardo Bazán’s work in Spanish with similar dexterity. The promise of future achievements such as these makes the promise of future missteps worth it. I’m preparing for conversational awkwardness to become a daily reality come September, and my grammatical accidents will become useful lessons and hilarious memories (in a few years, surely – maybe by my forties).

Studying

One of the main reasons I chose Universidad Pablo de Olavide as my school when I applied for different programs was because of the classes they offered. Though the many other facets of study abroad may be initially distracting, my studies are the real reason I’m going to Spain. Which can really put on the pressure, considering I’m walking into an entirely new educational system. My GPA is precious to me as though it’s an extension of my reputation – I will go to great lengths to protect it (I have seriously wondered why they don’t have dedicated nap rooms in the library. I would probably live there if I could). Knowing beforehand that European universities are run differently than they are in the US has already caused me moments of worry, but I am comforted by the fact that my program has dedicated on-site advisors for abroad students. Still, I’m planning on a little stress and confusion before I understand my new routine. And my new university’s library? Well, let’s just say we’re sure to be seeing a lot of each other, if my syllabus’ reading lists are anything to go by.

Underneath the worry I have for my grades is an excitement to begin my classes. When I read the descriptions online for what I would be learning, I already know I will enjoy all the classes I plan to sign up for. The university provides options for both of my majors, though I’ll be focusing on Spanish because of the interesting variety of classes available that I just wouldn’t be able to take at DU. There’s something kind of nerdy but undeniable about the thrill I get looking through class schedules and book lists. Knowing that I’ll be learning about the culture and history of a country in theory while being able to experience the reality of it at the same time is certainly one of the biggest appeals of study abroad.

Even after trying to categorize them, my emotions regarding study abroad are still fairly inextricable: exited-scared-elated, all in one, and about every part of it, all at once. The weeks are ticking down. It’s going to be a once-in-a-lifetime chance, and it’ll be scary, but it’ll also be amazing. I can’t wait.

- Emily L., DUSA blogger

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Waka Waka

I now have just one week until I leave for study abroad! In just one week I’ll be living right next to the ocean (not so different from home, but it’s a different ocean) and I’ll be 9,000 miles from Denver on the beautiful island of Zanzibar, off the coast of Tanzania, Africa.  I’ve watched some of my friends leave already, and this is just making me more excited! And with the juniors leaving, it’s left me with the start of the abroad blogs! My favorite procrastination technique during the fall is starting, and I still can’t believe that it’s starting now!

Really the only thing I’m not looking forward to is the flight there. I love to travel, to see new places, meet new people, and try new things, but I detest the actual traveling part of traveling. Sitting down for a long period of time is like my own personal torture, and combining that with airports, sitting next to people I don’t know, and feeling gross from not showering makes traveling the actual worst. My longest flight is from Washington DC to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, a trip of about 13 hours. And that doesn’t count the flight from Boston to DC, Ethiopia to Zanzibar, and layovers. I leave at 6am on August 21st and get in to Zanzibar at 3pm on August 22nd, local time. But I know it will all be worth it when I land and see that crystal clear ocean!

With that, since I get asked so often both “Why Zanzibar?”, and “Where’s Zanzibar?”, I thought I’d break down some simple demographics of the island. This is one of the struggles of studying abroad in Africa – nobody seems to know where exactly you’re going (and to be honest, I had never heard of Zanzibar until I applied for the program there).

Probably the biggest reason I continually am asked questions about Zanzibar is that no one from the University of Denver has ever studied abroad there. Being the first DU student to go on my program is so amazing, and I’m excited to have the opportunity to pave the way for other students to study there in the future. But why Zanzibar in particular? I’ve done the Europe thing, I’ve done the Australia thing, and I’ve done the Central America thing. Each trip was life-changing (and I mean that literally, I came back a different person than when I left) and breathtaking and I learned so much, but I wanted to travel someplace completely off the map, someplace I knew I would probably never have a chance to visit again. And the places I’ve visited have not been very different than what I’ve grown up knowing. Since my first tour at DU, I knew I wanted to study abroad in Africa. I wanted to live somewhere with a completely different culture than my own, and also somewhere I could study marine biology, which has been a passion of mine since I was a little girl. When the official packing list for my program stated that I was required to have my own mask, snorkel, and fins because I would be in the water every single day, I knew I found the place for me!

First question: Where is Zanzibar?

WhereIsZanzibar-copy

Second Question: Is it even a country?

Not quite – In 1964, the island of Zanzibar joined with the nation of Tanganyika to form what we now know as Tanzania. So no, it’s not its own country, but Zanzibar does have its own flag, much like the US states have their own flags! Below is the flag, and then my copy of it I painted onto my sorority letters (of course!). The Zanzibar flag, while it is for the island, incorporates the flag of Tanzania in the upper left-hand corner to show their merge with Tanzania.

pic082014-06-21 11.55.37 - Copy

Third Question: How big is it?

Zanzibar is only 1,023 square miles. That number means nothing to me, so I looked it up in comparison to what I do know – US states! To put it in perspective, Rhode Island, the smallest US state, is 1,212 square miles. So in conclusion, the island is TINY. Which is going to be awesome, because that should mean a constant sea breeze, right?

Fourth Question: (I’ve actually been asked this) Is that where they speak the clicky language?

While I am traveling to a third-world country, it doesn’t mean that there is no development. Although the population of Zanzibar is more than 99% Muslim, the three main languages are Kiswahili, English, and Arabic. What’s Kiswahili? It’s the same as what we call Swahili, but the word Swahili encompasses the entire culture, not just the language. However, the indigenous music is this awesome combination of African and Arabic influences, and I’m excited to listen to it live – but for now I have to settle for YouTube:

Fifth Question: Do you have to wear one of those things that covers your head?

There is a large amount of Arabic influence on the island, and is reflective in the people and the architecture around Zanzibar. Native women can choose to cover themselves fully if they wish, but it is not required of visitors. However, visitors are strongly recommended to be more covered than what Americans are used to. This basically eliminates my entire summer wardrobe: sundresses, shorts, and tank tops. But it has given me a great opportunity to buy some new clothes! So I subsequently went out and bought a few maxi skirts, loose-fitting shirts, and the coolest pair of pants I have ever owned and probably ever will own. See below.

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Sixth Question: Anything interesting ever happen there?

In my perusing of the internet for fun facts about Zanzibar, I came across this little tidbit: Freddie Mercury was born in Zanzibar. Um, yeah, THE Freddie Mercury. Having been a Queen fan for as long as I’ve been a music fan, I’m extremely excited to study in the birthplace of such an amazing person and someone who was part of a generation of music that I sincerely wish I was alive to see.

freddie

Seventh Question: Is it safe for Americans to be there?

Now this is the question I’ve gotten from every parent I’ve talked to about studying abroad in Zanzibar. I always reassure them that my university would not send me to somewhere that wasn’t safe. The worst thing I have to worry about is pick-pocketing. One of my biggest fears, though, is offending the culture of the natives. A big point my program made was that the two biggest complaints they get about their American students is that they dress inappropriately and drink too much. The absolute last thing I want to do is offend someone, and have that be the lasting impression of all Americans. And being a white person, I will be a minority (something I have never experienced), and I don’t need to draw negative attention to myself. I have traveled twice as a student ambassador with People to People International with the goal of changing viewpoints of Americans. I hope I succeeded then, and I hope to succeed during my four months in Africa.

I had such a fun time compiling all this info and I learned so much, so I hope you did to!

Thanks for reading!
Kim, DUSA blogger

Works Cited

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/tz.html

http://www.africaguide.com/country/zanzibar/culture.htm

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Introducing our 2014 DUSA Bloggers!

We are excited to announce our DUSA bloggers, who will be writing (and perhaps sharing some videos, too) during their study abroad this year.  We can’t wait to follow along with their experiences all over the world!

 

Emily S.

Emily S.

Emily S. is a marketing major (French minor), and she will be studying in Wales at Bangor University.

Emily L.

Emily

Emily L. is a Spanish & psychology double-major, and she will be studying at Universidad Pablo de Olavide with ISA in Sevilla, Spain.

Faith

Faith

Faith is an ecology & biodiversity major, and she will be studying at the University of York in York, England.

Kim

Kim

Kim is a biology major, and she will be studying in Zanzibar, Tanzania with the School for International Training (SIT).

Madeline

Madeline

Madeline is a mathematics & economics major, and she will be studying in Quito, Ecuador with MSID.

Zoe

Zoe

Zoe is a History major, and she will be studying in Caen, France with Academic Programs International (API).

Welcome 2014 DUSA bloggers!   We can’t wait to see what the world brings you (and what you bring to the world)!

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Combating the Wanderlust

I have been back from abroad for 6 and a half months and I’m itchy. Rather, I’m not itchy, but itching: itching for an adventure. I had the incredible privilege to visit 8 countries while I was abroad: Spain, England, Ireland, Croatia, Belgium, Germany, Morocco, and Norway. I spent a weekend exploring the nooks and crannies of the Medina in Marrakech. I stayed in the home of a Catalonian named Sergio, who graciously opened the door for me at 6:30am when I had forgotten my keys. I stayed in the Roman emperor’s palace in Split, Croatia where I casually jumped off cliffs in my spare time.

Coming home, however, was just as exciting. I had missed my friends, and readjusting to the life of a college upperclassman in the U.S. was it’s own adventure. I was living off campus for the first time in my own house, began to explore Denver, and had plenty of schoolwork to keep me occupied. My lust for adventure and travel lay dormant.

But when it came back, oh did it come back with a vengeance. This summer, I’ve had the pleasure to continue working at DU’s Study Abroad office. Most recently, I have been updating our database on all 176 programs we offer and mapping the location of each one. This, however, comes at the price of wanderlust. As I’ve been perusing websites, reading syllabi, and looking at program cities on Google Maps, it seems every other thought is: how much would a plane ticket to (blank) cost?

Me after the Barcelona, Real Madrid match in Barcelona

Me after the Barcelona, Real Madrid match in Barcelona

So, for all you fellow returnees out there, my best advice for you is to make a bucket list of activities to quench your thirst for adventure. Here are a couple suggestions that I’ve taken to heart:

  1. Go outside! Colorado has 53 peaks over 14,000 feet (4.3km) in the air and fantastic camping for all levels of outdoorsmen/women. Take advantage of them and explore.
  2. Obtain a skill. This can range from learning how to cook to getting scuba certified or obtaining your motorcycle license. It’ll open doors in the future.
  3. Go on a road trip. A lot of times we forget just how incredible the United States is compared to the excitement from abroad. Assemble a crew and drive somewhere you’ve never been.
  4. Foodies of the world, unite! Denver has a plethora of awesome international restaurants, with delicious Indian, Moroccan, Ethiopian, Vietnamese, and Japanese options that are relatively inexpensive. Try food from around the world.
  5. WATCH THE WORLD CUP. The world is competing in the World’s Game until July 13th. Cheer on your native or adoptive country in homage to your time abroad.
  6. Read a book. They say the greatest part of reading is that you can travel 1000 miles without taking a single step. For those of us who enjoy extracurricular reading, but never seem to have the time to do it, carve a chunk out of your Netflix time to read.

In the end it may not be the same as abroad, but at least it will keep you occupied. Best of luck on your next adventure!

-Max Spiro, Peer Advisor

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7 Tips For Study Abroad 7 Years Later

Today we have a guest blog post from a DU study abroad alumn.  Patrick Dichter studied at Aix-Marseille Université in southern France through ISEP. He graduated in 2009, majoring in International Business with minors in French and Finance. Patrick went on to complete his MBA at DU in 2010 and has worked for an online marketing startup before launching his own business, The Passport Protector LLC. 

I feel old. Seven years have already flown by since I studied abroad during my junior year at University of Denver. In my mind, it feels like yesterday that I got lost arrived on campus in Aix-en-Provence, France.

Now my journey has come full circle – the chance to share some ‘wisdom’ and a business I’ve launched because of that important semester. So here we go….7 Tips for Study Abroad 7 Years Later:

1. Soak up Every Single Second

The summer before I left my aunt sent me an email saying, ‘what I wouldn’t give to sit in a French café and do nothing but read for hours on end.’ Weird, I thought. But now I understand how time just seems to stop in those cafes yet real life is too busy for a 30-minute lunch.

2. Step outside your comfort zone. Then take two more steps.

The best times I had were the adventures that made me a bit nervous. And I can’t remember a single Skype session with friends from home, nor do I wish I’d spent more time using wifi. Get off your computer and into the world.

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3. Buy a local flag.

I can’t take credit for this idea, but it’s priceless. Buy a flag from your city or local soccer club to have all your friends from your program sign. Last night of the semester, everyone can jot down a note or memory.

4. Follow your heart.

Americans tend to be very logical or follow the rules. Your semester abroad is a great time to live it up and roam free. Buy that plane ticket to Morocco. Stay out late. Squeeze in one more excursion. Besides, spring semester you’re one year away from graduation.

5. Lean into the language.

If English isn’t the primary language in your city, don’t fight it and lean into it. It’s hard when you can’t read everything or keep up and express yourself. But the sooner you embrace the challenge, the easier it’ll become. Make a note to write down words you don’t know; try the native language first with locals, not English; focus on progress, not perfection.

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6. Appreciate student living abroad.

So your dorm room might be small and your budget is never big enough? There’s a huge difference between living in a city for months and all the graces that come with being a student, versus every other time you’ll travel. The next time, you’ll be rushed to cram everything into 2 weeks. Or you’ll have work emails to answer. Or you won’t know the city like a local. Or you’ll be too old for late nights and too accustomed to the finer things like nice hotels.

7. Take care of your passport with The Passport Protector!

I tried to return to Europe last summer for a two week trip. But as I was boarding the plane, I got stopped by a gate agent because of ‘wear and tear’ on my passport. It was up to date and in decent shape. Unfortunately the airline said they could get fined and I didn’t have any control in the matter. So we lost 4 days and $2500 for me to replace my passport. Thus I came up with a new product – The Passport Protector. It’s a hardcore case with innovative minimal design. Waterproof, impact resistant, and won’t get lost. Plus for every one sold we donate a portion to study abroad scholarships. Check out our crowdfunding campaign to buy one and spread the word: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-passport-protector/x/7035073

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Staying Connected Abroad

Taking a smart phone overseas and using local Wi-Fi on campus or in coffee shops can often be the most effective way of keeping in touch with friends and family back home. Make sure to keep your phone on airplane mode to avoid any additional charges from overseas use.

Here are some apps to help ease communication:

  • Skype enables you to video call or instant message from computer to computer or from your smart phone for free. You can also use Skype to make reduced rate phone calls to a phone back in the U.S.
  • Viber allows you to call mobile to mobile for free, as long as each phone has internet access, either through Wi-Fi or 3G. You can also send free international text messages. The app integrates your address book, showing you which of your contacts already has Viber.
  • WhatsApp – An instant messaging app that is free for the first year of use and 99 cents per year after. It allows you to text message people anywhere in the world for free, and allows you to share photos rapidly. WhatsApp uses the phone numbers in your address book to show friends and family with WhatsApp automatically. It also has a neat group chat feature too.
  • iMessage – the default texting on iPhones works through Wi-Fi just like other apps. Text your contacts in the same way as you do back in the U.S. As with iMessage, Facetime will also enable you to video chat internationally as long as you have Wi-Fi access. However, be forewarned that iPhones are not as popular overseas as they are here in the U.S. Make sure you download a separate app!
  • Touchnote – Allows you to create postcards on your phone, combining a photo and text, before printing it and sending it to any address in the world for $1.99 per postcard.

Finally, if you’re in a Wi-Fi spot and looking for other places for using Wi-Fi, the app Free Wi-Fi Finder works around the world to keep you connected for free. It maps free Wi-Fi access close to you.

-Callum Forster, Peer Advisor

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